The famous sisters have been playing for a very long time: Serena won her first major in 1999, while Venus grabbed it in 2000. They’ve faced off 27times over the years, with Serena 16-11 versus Venus. Clearly, Serena is better, winning 22 Grand Slams, and Venus winning seven majors. During the last four times at the Grand Slams, Serena beat Venus at the US Open and Wimbledon, twice. But, in 2008 in the Wimbledon final, Venus took Serena down. It seemed like Venus would win majors year after year, but she didn’t. Serena did, having racked up numerous majors in the last few years.
Now, one of them will win on Saturday. Combined, they will be 30 Grand Slams.
“She’s my toughest opponent. No one has ever beaten me as much as Venus has,” said Serena. “I just feel like no matter what’s happened we’ve both won. … A Williams is going to win this tournament.”
Venus said: “Everyone has their moment in the sun. Maybe mine has gone on a while but I’d like to keep that going. I got nothing else to do. Let’s keep it going.”
Here is the story at 2008 Wimbledon between the sisters. On Friday, another piece of the sisters, the 2003 final at at the Australian Open.
WIMBLEDON – Venus Williams said it all with a shy smile.
She had just won her fifth Wimbledon championship. Inside, she was bubbling with joy, but on the outside, there was no in-your-face, wild celebration.
No, not with her little sister Serena standing a few feet away, visibly upset after Venus handed her a 7-5, 6-4 defeat in a final where Serena clearly looked like the younger sibling who couldn’t find the golden key to unlock Venus’ treasure chest of All England Club secrets.
Just how could Venus defend one break point after another, come up with untouchable serves, sure-handed volleys and blitzing groundstrokes whenever Serena seemed prepared to seize control of the match and win her third title?
Why does Venus play so much better on the sleek green lawns, when outside of the historic club, she has looked oh-so-vulnerable since ’01, failing to win another major on hard or clay courts, while Serena has proved herself to be a better all-around player, winning majors on every surface?
Simply because Venus is a better athlete and more knowledgeable player on grass and when she plays her best, like she did in the final, she’ll beat Serena time and time again on the turf. “I love winning and realize one has to win and one has to lose and I’ve been at the losing end of the Slams many times, so I guess it was my time to win,” said Venus, who handcuffed Serena with twisting serves to her body. “But I was pretty excited about that win because it was so close. Of course the celebration isn’t as exciting because my sister just lost.”
Added the girls’ older sister, Lyndrea:” Either way it was going to be sad.”
As terrific a server and returner as Serena is, Venus trusts her heater and slice serve more, especially with her second serve. She is a more accurate and intelligent returner, swarms the net with more confidence and can hold her own from the baseline against her sister’s clean, deep and mostly accurate strokes.
Every other elite player should play close attention to how Venus intelligently approaches the lawns. No. 1 Ana Ivanovic was low balled out early by China’s promising Jie Zheng, ’04 champ Maria Sharapova was bullied by cocky Russian Alla Kudryavtseva, No. 2 Jelena Jankovic was roughed up by 31-year-old Thai Tammy Tanasugarn and No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova was tripped up by Polish teen Agnieska Radwanska.
But Venus and Serena, who held Wimbledon six combined titles entering the finals, never faltered. In the semis, Venus outlegged Elena Dementieva in and Serena aced her way past Zheng.
Serena had jokingly said before the final that she would eat Venus’ breakfast, but all she ended up doing was crying over spilled milk.
Venus got in trouble early in the first set and went down a break, but then smartly stepped in closer on her returns, cutting off Serena’s angles. Serena held 13 break points in the match but was only able to convert two. She lost a remarkable 17 of her 22 second serve points, which put her under tremendous pressure every time her swerving wide serves or bombs down the tee didn’t find the box.
Serving at 5-6 in the first set, the eight-time Grand Slam champion fought off a set point with a searing backhand crosscourt winner, but on the next one, Serena dumped a backhand to the net and smacked her racket to the ground after handing her sister the set at 7-5. The crisis hadn’t been averted. It was full on.
“She lifted the level of her game and I should have lifted mine, but instead mine went down,” Serena said.
Serena sealed her own fate in the fourth game of the second set. After finally breaking Venus on her seventh break point with a forehand winner to go up 2-1, Serena failed to consolidate and was broken back when she erred on a forehand.
Then the clock began to tick more quickly, as Serena strained to contain her groundstrokes and to figure out just how she would continue to hold while Venus was sprinting around and playing more freely. No such solutions would come into her head.
Venus gained a match point at 5-4 after a beautiful defense-to-offense rally. Serena scalded a service winner on the first one, but on the second one, she was pushed onto her back foot and flew a backhand well wide.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God, it’s five. Wow,'” Venus said of the moment of victory.
Venus secured her seventh Grand Slam title overall, tying her with just-retired Justine Henin and putting her just one behind Serena. She became just the third player in the Open Era to win five or more titles. She’s four crowns behind all-time leader Martina Navratilova and two behind Steffi Graf, who are widely considered the two finest all-around players ever. That’s some kind of company to be in.
“Definitely winning this tournament so many times puts you in the stratosphere, just because of what this tournament means,” Venus said. “Had I had this achievement at any other tournament it would have been awesome, but not nearly the same meaning at Wimbledon.”
What the rest of the Williams family would really like is for the two sisters to face off in more Slam finals, but if history proves to be an indicator, there aren’t many opportunities left. The ’08 Wimbledon final was the first time that that they’ve faced other in the finale of a major in five years, and given that the 28-year-old Venus hasn’t reached the final of a hard court major since ’03, it might not be until Wimbledon ’09 when the siblings are staring at each again with all the major chips on the line.
If that’s the case, it will be too bad for the sport. The ’08 final was played at the highest level of any of the 16 career contests between the sisters.
“Some of those rallies today I don’t think anyone could’ve got,” said their mother, Oracene Price. “That was amazing.”
Venus, who nailed a Wimbledon record 129-mph serve, added, “The level of play was really high. A lot of the times one of us was overpowering the other. So I hit a hard ball on the line, she can’t get it back. Or I tried to go for too much because I’m anticipating that she’s going to run my shot down. Or I hit a huge serve, she hits one I can’t return.”
The sisters, like the rest of the elite players, have a heavy summer schedule ahead. Along with Aussie Open champ Sharapova and French Open victor Ivanovic, they will contest the Olympics (Venus was the 2000 gold medalist) and the U.S. Open, which starts a couple of days after the curtains are drawn in Beijing. It’s possible that in New York, the sisters will be placed on opposite sides of the draw, and if they play as well as they did in England, they may be able to stop the European title streak there – now running at five straight years.
While fans on Centre Court politely clapped during their delightful clash, U.S. fans are sure to be more emotionally involved watching their countrywomen write another chapter in the rare spectacle.
“I would love that,” Venus said.